Blankets are on my mind lately, for a few reasons. I live in coastal Northern California, and I don’t show, so the horses only get blanketed when it really gets cold. Like this last week for instance. The blankets had come back from the cleaner’s months ago and had been stored, still in the plastic bags, on a shelf. When I unpacked my thoroughbred, Dublin’s, blanket, it was obvious pretty quickly that I had not gotten Dublin’s blanket back. It was obvious because I’m cheap when it comes to blankets, and the outside of Dublin’s blanket feels a bit like sandpaper, and this blanket had a luxurious cashmere feel to it. Yes, I got a MUCH nicer blanket back. Unfortunately, it seems to belong to some enormous warmblood instead of my short-backed Thoroughbred and is at least 8” too long. (Yes, I put it on him even though it wasn’t mine. It was cold and he needed a blanket and I was out of options.)
Lesson #1: When you get your blanket back from the cleaner’s, do a quick check to make sure it’s the right blanket. I’m sure somebody has really been missing this beautiful blanket for a while now. The cleaner has located my blanket and we’ll be doing a swap.
Lesson #2: It doesn’t hurt to have a spare blanket on hand. This morning I discovered that my Quarter Horse, Cowboy, tore a strap off his blanket and tore the entire side of the blanket in the process. So, handily, when I return the one blanket, I can take Cowboy’s in for repair at the same time. That still leaves me a blanket short.
That gorgeous blanket did, however, open my mind to the possibility that there may be something to paying a little more for a blanket. Yes, I have blanket shame. In the interest of finding out what kind of bank I can get for my blanket buck, I did some research, and here’s what I found out about selecting a horse blanket.
First thing to determine is what size blanket your horse wears. It helps to have a friend help you with this because you need to put a tape measure (you’ll need something at least 7’ long) on your horse, with one end in the center of his chest and then measure around the side, over the point of the butt, to the center of the tail. Select that size or the next size up. Some blanket manufacturers size their blankets in even inches (74”, 76”, 78” etc) and some go every 3 inches (72”, 75”, 78”).
TYPES OF BLANKETS
There are basically 3 types of blankets: sheets, stable blankets, and turnout blankets.
- Sheets provide lightweight coverage to provide a little bit of heat, can protect from sun fade, or help keep a horse clean
- Stable blankets are designed to provide warmth to a horse kept in a stable. They aren’t waterproof and aren’t designed to protect a horse from the elements. In fact, if they are exposed to rain or snow, they can soak up moisture and make your horse colder.
- Turnout blankets are the warmest and most durable for horses that are outside and exposed to the elements. The material is generally tougher and usually waterproof. The design is typically a bit roomier and allow more freedom of movement.
Blankets are commonly described as light, medium or heavy weight. The difference is the amount of “fill”, the stuffing inside the blanket. Light weight blankets have little to no fill, medium weight blankets have around 200 grams of fill, and heavy weight blankets generally have more than 300 grams of fill.
Some guidelines for selecting the right weight:
|Termperature||Horse with Natural Coat||Horse that is Body Clipped|
|50-60o F||Sheet||Light Blanket|
|40-50o F||Light Blanket||Light/Medium Blanket|
|30-40o F||Light/Medium Blanket||Medium/Heavy Blanket|
|20-30o F||Medium/Heavy Blanket||Heavy/Medium w/blanket liner|
|Below 20o F||Heavy||Heavy w/blanket liner|
SHELL STRENGTH (“DENIER”) AND MATERIALS
The strength of the outer shell of the horse blanket is described as “denier”, which refers to the thickness of the thread in the material. The higher the number, the tougher the material.
Nylon is strong, resilient and stain resistant, but expensive. Polyester is more affordable and lighter weight but not as strong. A blend is often a good choice.
STYLE MATTERS, TOO
Once you’ve figured out what size, weight and denier you need, it’s time for style considerations. There are different cuts, hardware and fastening types.
Some features include Teflon coating to repel dirt, shoulder gussets for more freedom of movement, leg arches (also for freedom of movement) taped seams for extra water-proofing, tail flaps, wither relief pad, and reflective strips. You can get detachable neck covers (if you buy a neck cover separately, it should match the blanket so that the attachments are aligned). Front closures include straps, snaps or closed fronts, which need to be slipped over the horse’s head.
And of course, you get to pick the color that complements your horses beauty! Blankets come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Cowboy, for example is stunning in his neon pink-and-purple leopard print blanket. One advantage of picking a unique color is that you are pretty sure you have the right blanket when it gets back from the cleaner.
Blanket hardware isn’t something that seems to get a lot of attention in blanket catalog descriptions but it’s worth paying attention to. Look at the fasteners on the blanket you are considering and decide if that’s a system that will be easy for you. Snaps should open and close smoothly, buckles should be easy to fasten but not so loose that they come undone, and the “T” style buckles that typically fasten the surcingle straps (under the belly) should be a good weight and rustproof. Make sure the hardware is maintained, not bent, and works well before blanketing your horse. If you have to struggle to put the blanket ON your horse, it’s not going to get any easier by the time you want to take it OFF, and your horse may not be in a cooperative mood by then. Hardware seems to be pretty standard on most blankets, so you’ll need to do your part by keeping it all clean, getting it dry when not in use to avoid rust, and oiling snaps to keep them operating smoothly.
MAINTAINING YOUR BLANKET
Over-washing can damage the integrity of your blanket. During the season, spot cleaning with a stiff brush will usually do. Avoid bleach—it can damage the fabric and the straps. Dry them on a line or over a fence, where sun and wind can help with the drying process. I try to get them out of the sun as soon as they are dry as I’ve found the UV rays can weaken the fabric and the webbing straps. At the end of “blanket season”, send them out for professional cleaning, where they have the right washing machines and drying tools to avoid damage to both your blanket and the washing machine (I washed a horse blanket in my mom’s washing machine. Once. Never made that mistake again.) These services can also generally make any needed repairs to your blanket.
During the season, when the blanket is being used, it can be stored on a blanket bar, on a rack or hung from a hook to keep them off the ground. Once the season is over, and you have the blanket back from the cleaner, it can be stored in the bag provided by the cleaner (after verifying that it is, indeed, your blanket!) or placed in your own plastic storage bag and placed on a shelf or in a trunk. This will keep it clean and away from critters while it’s not in use.
Replacement hardware and straps are generally available from tack stores, both local and online.
Hopefully you have found some helpful information here to help you shop for your next blanket. Clearance sales for blankets should be showing up any time, so use this info to figure out what you need and you’ll be ready to pounce on the specials!